A Visual Tour of the Ol' Rockpile

Ask anybody from Western New York old enough to remember the Nixon Administration, the war in Viet Nam, Republic Steel in South Buffalo or Woodstock (the first one) and I'm sure they'll have some kind of a story about War Memorial Stadium, or as it was more commonly known, "The Rockpile."

Originally named Civic Stadium, the Rockpile was built as a WPA project, a federally funded make work program administrated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the depression years. Construction started in 1935 and after three years its doors opened in 1938. Back then Buffalo didn't have a professional football franchise so after it opened and through the World War II years, Civic Stadium was used mostly for parades and civic gatherings. The AAA baseball Bisons played their games in Offermann Stadium, a few blocks away on Michigan and East Ferry Street.

It wasn't until 1947, when the Buffalo Bills of the newly formed All American Football Conference, decided to call Civic Stadium its home. The Bills fielded very competitive teams back then, twice finishing second in their division to the mighty Cleveland Browns, who's roster featured future pro football hall of famers, Otto Graham, Marion Motley and Lou Groza and a guy named Don Shula. Fans flocked to the Rockpile to watch some exiting football back then and in 1949 when talks of the AAFC merging with the established NFL arose, it seemed Civic Stadium and Buffalo, N.Y. were headed into the big time. This was not to be however, as the NFL only absorbed the Browns, the San Francisco 49ers and the lowly Baltimore Colts. Most of the Bills better players were added to the Browns roster. During the decade of the 1950's, Civic Stadium turned into a stock car racing venue.

In 1959, Buffalo learned that it would be awarded a professional football franchise once again, this time in the newly formed American Football League. Detroit businessman, Ralph C. Wilson Jr. was a minority owner of the Detroit Lions but longed to own his own team. Wilson had originally wanted to place a team in his winter home of Miami, Florida but after being spurned by the Orange Bowl, Wilson was informed about the loyal fans of Buffalo and its stadium. 

In 1960, Offermann Stadium was closed and demolished to make way for a new public school and the Bisons joined the Bills in newly renamed War Memorial Stadium and it was during the ensuing decade that the Rockpile would experience its hey day. Both the Bisons and the Bills would win championships inside the friendly confines of War Memorial Stadium. The Bills' teams featured such players as fullback Cookie Gilchrist, quarterbacks Jack Kemp and Darryl Lamonica, defensive linemen Tom Sestack and Ron McDole, future hall of famer Billy Shaw, punter Paul Maguire and pro football's first soccer-style kicker Pete Gogolak. The Bisons fielded a future hall of famer too in catcher, Johnny Bench. It all came to end in the early seventies when the Bills moved into there new suburban home, Rich Stadium and the Bisons moved to Winnipeg, Canada. The Rockpile sat unused from 1973 till 1979 when minor league baseball returned and was played there until 1988.

Come on in and take a visual tour of that old stadium in Buffalo, N.Y. once known as The Rockpile